Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Hired hand found with missing dog, deputies say

SPRING HILL — Margaret Ortiz hobbles on a cane, the result of a 2008 hip surgery. She needed help around the house and offered Justin Powers $60 to mop, do the dishes and laundry.

A friend had recommended Powers, and Ortiz said he seemed like a "nice young man." She'd pay him with her disability check.

Powers, 29, was polite, she said. And he took a liking to her dog Jason, a fluffy red Shiba Inu with perky ears and a tightly wound tail. He offered to buy Jason for $150.

"I said no because I paid $1,300," she said. "I knew the price was way too much. But I guess I thought of him as a legacy of my dad who died recently."

Three weeks ago, as Powers left after a cleaning job, Jason bolted out the front door.

"I told Justin, 'I'll go get my keys so I can look for him,' " Ortiz said. "But I went outside and Justin was gone."

On the phone, Ortiz asked Powers if he'd seen Jason. She asked him again when he came back to clean. He said no, but she was suspicious.

"He knew I was looking for the dog," she said. "He knew I was spending hours in the car, putting up posters, calling animal shelters. I even put out a doggie Amber alert."

Alex, Ortiz's 11-year-old daughter, dreamt that Jason was locked in a small, scary room, she said.

"I was hoping he was dead or with somebody nice, because I didn't like to think about the fact that he might be wandering," she said.

On Monday, Ortiz called the Nantucket Cove Apartments, where Powers lives. She asked a manager to keep an eye out for Powers and the dog. Soon, the manager called Ortiz. Powers was in front of his apartment — walking a dog.

Ortiz called the Hernando Sheriff's Office.

Deputies knocked on Powers' apartment door and found Jason. He wore a new collar and a camouflage bandana around his neck. He even had a new doggie bed.

Powers said he had planned to return Jason, deputies reported, but he could not explain why he had lied or kept the dog more than three weeks.

Powers, who had earlier this year been charged with possession of prescription drugs, was arrested and charged with grand theft. He remained in the county jail Wednesday on $1,500 bail.

When Jason was returned to Ortiz, "He jumped into Alex's arms,'' she said. "And he chowed down on his dog food."

Brittany Alana Davis can be reached at, or at (352) 848-1432.

Hired hand found with missing dog, deputies say 12/15/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, December 15, 2010 8:08pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Police: Uber driver's gun discharges during fight at Adventure Island in Tampa

    Public Safety

    TAMPA — An Uber driver's gun went off Sunday at Adventure Island during a fight between the driver and two passengers.

  2. Baker cautious on Pride politics


    Rick and Joyce Baker strode down Central Avenue Sunday amid rainbow flags, corporate booths, and blaring music of the St. Pete Pride Festival.

    St. Petersburg mayoral candidate Rick Baker chats Sunday with people at the St. Pete Pride Festival. As mayor, Baker did not sign a Pride parade proclamation, but now he says he would.
  3. Rays' bullpen stars lit up in loss to Orioles

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Saturday it was the soft underbelly of the bullpen that let one get away from the Rays, incurring the wrath of the team's faithful followers, who wondered why the high-leverage guys weren't pitching.

    Rays closer Alex Colome, coming in with the score tied in the ninth, allows three runs in his second straight poor outing.
  4. Lightning among early suitors for defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman said he planned to explore free agency for potential needs, which include bolstering his blue line and adding a wing or two.

    Defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, who can be a free agent Saturday, counts the Lightning among his early suitors.
  5. Senate leaders try to appease members as support for health bill slips


    WASHINGTON — Senate Republican leaders scrambled Sunday to rally support for their health care bill, even as opposition continued to build outside Congress and two Republican senators questioned whether the bill would be approved this week.

    Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, speaking to reporters on Capitol Hill on Thursday, is one of the five Republican senators who announced they cannot support the health care bill as drafted.